Pamela Geller’s recent screed in World Net Daily is an insult to anyone who cares about the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know.
Her June 20 column ravaged the Associated Press for filing suit against the New Brunswick Police Department after the department denied them public information, which may be a violation of state public records law. Geller, however, claims that the AP has filed suit in order to “disarm the greatest counter-terrorism unit in the world, the New York Police Department.”
What Geller misses, or just plain ignores, is that public institutions regularly resist public records requests from the press. Interested members of the public (including journalists) who are legally entitled to the information withheld, often have to sue to get the information released.
For example, KOMO Channel 4 in Seattle had to sue the city last year after the police department refused to turn over public records. Seattle may pay out as much as $300,000 this year to keep public records secret. It’s a double-loss for the people of Seattle: not only are they less informed about what their civil servants are doing, but they have to foot the bill for covering up their tracks.
What was so worth trampling over our democracy (and questioning the ethics of the Associated Press) for Pamela Geller? The invasive and possibly illegal surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey. It makes sense, if you’re a bigot.
Who it didn’t make sense to was at least one of the police chiefs most familiar with the program. Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy, who was the police chief in Newark when the NYPD was conducting the now infamous surveillance operations against Muslims there, promised not to bring the program along with him, having learned his lesson.
Do we really want to be kept in the dark about what public servants do in our name? Apparently, Pamela Geller thinks so.